Waking up with your heart racing can be distressing, but it’s not necessarily a sign of something serious. Anxiety, not sleeping enough, or heart arrhythmia may be the cause.
The racing sensation of your heart is just one way people describe heart palpitations. It may also feel like your heart is fluttering, pounding, or skipping a beat.
Heart palpitations are very common and usually
Several everyday things can make you wake up with your heart racing. But sometimes, an underlying condition may be the reason.
Read on to learn the causes and what you can do to calm your racing heart.
Having a fast heart rate in the morning can have many causes. Here’s a look at some common ones and other symptoms to watch out for.
Stress and anxiety trigger the release of stress hormones. These hormones, in turn, can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. A higher level of anxiety may cause more intense symptoms.
Other common symptoms of anxiety can include:
- rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- trouble concentrating
- excessive worry
- difficulty sleeping
Drinking alcohol the night before
If you’re waking up with your heart racing after drinking, chances are you’ve had too much.
Drinking alcohol increases your heart rate. The more you drink, the faster your heart beats. A 2017 study linked binge drinking and long-term heavy alcohol use with different types of cardiac arrhythmia, especially sinus tachycardia.
You may have other symptoms of a hangover hours after drinking. These may include:
- muscle aches
These symptoms should clear up as your hangover subsides.
The sugar you consume is absorbed into your bloodstream after passing through your small intestine. Having too much sugar can cause a blood sugar spike. This signals your pancreas to release insulin and convert what it can to energy.
Your body may interpret an increase in blood sugar and energy as stress. This triggers the release of stress hormones.
Along with a racing heart, you may also begin to sweat. Some people also get what’s known as a “sugar headache.”
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of irregular heart rate. It happens when the heart’s upper chambers beat out of coordination with the lower chambers.
AFib usually causes a fast heart rate, but some people feel a fluttering or thumping in the chest.
AFib itself isn’t usually life threatening. But in some cases, it can increase the risk of heart failure and may require treatment.
If you have AFib, you may also experience:
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you are asleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It occurs when your throat muscles relax, causing your airway to narrow or close.
Research from 2018 suggests that sleep apnea increases the risk of an irregular heart rate. Sudden drops in your blood oxygen levels can raise your blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system.
Symptoms of sleep apnea can include:
- loud snoring
- gasping for air during sleep
- trouble sleeping through the night
- dry mouth on waking
- morning headaches
Caffeine is a natural stimulant commonly found in coffee, tea, and cacao plants. It stimulates the brain and central nervous system, which increases alertness.
In some people, too much caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure and cause anxiety and nervousness.
Consuming a large amount of caffeine-containing products can cause your heart to race. This includes products such as:
- energy drinks
Drinking too much caffeine can cause other side effects. These may include:
Diabetes causes high blood glucose levels, which can damage the walls of your arteries and cause rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and other heart-related complications.
Other symptoms of diabetes include:
- frequent urination
- excessive thirst
- extreme hunger
- tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
- blurred vision
Medications containing stimulants
Just like caffeine, other stimulants can cause your heart to race. Stimulants may be ingredients in certain over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications.
These can include:
- inhaled steroids
- thyroid medication such as levothyroxine
- OTC cough and cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine such as Sudafed
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Rapid heart rate can be a possible effect of low blood sugar, according to older 2014 research. Going a long time without eating can cause low blood sugar. Certain health conditions can also cause low blood sugar levels. These conditions can include:
Other symptoms of low blood sugar include:
Nightmares or night terrors
Nightmares and night terrors can cause you to wake up with a racing heart. Nightmares are disturbing dreams that can wake you up. Night terrors are a type of sleep disorder in which a person awakens partially in a state of terror.
If you wake up after an upsetting dream or night terror with your heart racing, your heart rate should slow as you calm down.
Cold or fever
Any drastic change in your body temperature can cause changes in your heart rate. This includes cold temperatures and having a fever.
Your body reacts to a change in temperature by triggering processes to try to regulate your body temperature. This includes expanding and constricting your skin’s blood vessels. These mechanisms help keep heat in or carry it to the skin’s surface, causing muscle contractions and shivering.
Your heart rate can increase when your body works harder to keep its typical temperature. For many people, this is around 98.6°F (37°C).
An overactive thyroid is also called hyperthyroidism. It occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. It can accelerate your metabolism and cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat and unintentional weight loss.
Other symptoms you may notice include:
Lack of sleep
Aim to sleep
Not getting enough sleep can lead to:
Anemia occurs when you have too few healthy red blood cells in your body to carry the oxygen your organs and tissues need to work properly.
Anemia can occur when the body doesn’t make enough red blood cells or destroys them. People with heavy periods have a
Along with arrhythmia, anemia can also cause:
- shortness of breath
Dehydration can be mild or severe. If left untreated, it can cause serious complications.
Common symptoms of mild dehydration can include:
- dry mouth
- increased thirst
- decreased urination
Symptoms of severe dehydration may include:
Periods, pregnancy, and menopause
Fluctuating hormone levels can trigger feelings of a racing heart. This can include changes related to:
During the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall. The menstrual cycle can affect your heart rate, according to
Here are some other symptoms that can accompany waking up with a racing heart and what they could mean.
Waking up with a racing heart and shaking
Waking up with a racing heart and shaking may be caused by:
- consuming too much caffeine
- taking medications that contain stimulants
- being cold
- a nightmare or night terror
Waking up with a racing heart and shortness of breath
Waking up with a racing heart and shortness of breath may be caused by:
- sleep apnea
Having a racing heart, chest pain, and dizziness
A racing heart, chest pain, and dizziness are warning symptoms of a heart attack. If you or someone else are experiencing these symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency services right away.
A heart attack is a medical emergency and needs immediate medical treatment. Go to the nearest emergency room if you experience these symptoms.
A doctor or healthcare professional will begin by asking about your symptoms and performing a physical examination. They may listen to your heart and check for signs of conditions that can cause a racing heart such as an enlarged thyroid.
The doctor may also order one or more of the following tests:
A racing heart that’s infrequent and only lasts a few seconds doesn’t usually need evaluation. See a doctor if you have a history of heart disease or your palpitations worsen.
If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, look for emergency medical help or call 911 or your local emergency services. These symptoms may include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
Waking up with a racing heart often isn’t serious. It may not require treatment if it only happens occasionally or lasts just a few seconds.
But if your symptoms interfere with your daily activities or cause distress, you may want to see a doctor. They can rule out an underlying medical condition and help you find relief.